Monday, January 22, 2007


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'Altruistic' brain region found
Scientists say they have found the part of the brain that predicts whether a person will be selfish or an altruist. Altruism - the tendency to help others without obvious benefit to oneself - appears to be linked to an area called the posterior superior temporal sulcus.

I personally have always felt that altruism was more a learned behaviour. On the TV show CHILD OF OUR TIME there was an episode that talked about how much empathy a child had towards other people and in an experiment one child seemed to have no empathy towards the mother at all. I also felt this mother came across as cold and unloving(why I don't know, it could have been post-natal depression) and I felt this resulted in the child failing to show any empathy.

The article goes on to say

He added: "If you can educate from an early stage to be more altruistic that would be good for the community, and if you could also show that had an impact on brain development that would be very interesting."
He said true altruism was a rare or even intangible thing.

I have also felt that adult behaviour is never truly altruistic. Yes you have those who do missionary work, Nuns for example who live a religious life but can you ever be fully altruistic? Why do people do what they do?

Yes I agree that people do good things for many reasons, I donate to charity as much as I can and I try and do charitable acts but why?
I do them because I want to ease the pain and suffering of others, I want others to have a better life AND because it makes me feel better when I do it-I feel good about myself. Why does a religious person do what they do? Same as me I guess and they want a reward in the next life. Sounds good to me, we all have our own reasons for doing things but I don't believe that you can be 100% altruistic.
I believe also that mankind was physically created with the inability to be truly altruistic and to need to do things for 'selfish ' reasons so as to make them actually do things. An example- think about sex........take away the sex drive, attraction, the lust aspect, the emotion and what have you go? Just a very embarrassing, stupid thing-people would say,'I'm not doing that!'. Mankind had to reproduce itself in some way so the emotions served a purpose.
The things that parents do for children however are different and here I think that you can be truly altruistic, the parent who gives food to their child and doesn't eat themselves because there is not enough, parents who give kidneys for children - you know the kind of thing. However, perhaps the 'experts' would not put the child -parent situation in the mix.
I do believe though in what was suggested in the article about educating from an early age so you could see changes but it is not something that could happen in isolation, you need to teach the parents and the children at the same time or it might not work. I feel strongly about green issues, healthy eating and living and community values being taught in schools as the children then go home and teach the rest of the family. I am suggesting that teachers(as a lot of them already do) incorporate the positive into their existing teaching schedule. AND yes I know that teachers time is limited but many teachers already do these thing and do see a change in the attitudes of the children for the better.
AND before you all think that the whole of what I have just written was to culminate in this final rant on one of my 'issues' I need to say that I only just thought of the relevance of this.
Parking outside of schools. It is a nightmare everywhere, not just in the two schools close to my house. But I do think there is a solution. I have heard of a project whereby the parents, teachers and children take it in turns to be parking wardens outside of their schools. They cone off the Zig-Zag lines and the dangerous areas and confront parents who do not park considerately and legally. They also take photos of persistent 'offenders' and give them to the police. I do believe that educating the child in this situation would have a huge impact on
the behaviour of the parents and so produce greater safety and anti-social behaviour and when the child is older they are less likely to park in a dangerous and anti-social way.

Children though I think are different, I have heard of many instances of truly altruistic behaviour in children.
I have a niece who when she was little would have given you her last sweet, I don't know if she still would but I think that children lose their naturally altruistic behaviour by watching adults. Now that is a really sad thing.
Perhaps instead of us looking to teach the children perhaps we adults should look to learn from the child........little children are a lot nicer than the average adult!

Remember don't quote me on any of the above, I could be wrong. I am certainly not an expert in psychology or any other -ology for that matter , just a mother who sees her own children and the world around her and comments on it.

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An Irish Blessing

(A Blessing from St. Patrick)
May the road rise to meet you,

May the wind be always at your back,

May the sun shine warm upon your face,

May the rains fall soft upon your fields,

And, until we meet again,

May God hold you in the hollow of His hand.